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Good morning. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are holding
on lines 3 and 4 looking for comment
about the incident
you thought would go away when you first learned about it yesterday.

In reality, traditional media and social media leap on stories like these:

Sexual misconduct…data theft…OSHA & discrimination complaints…
active shooter…accusations of fiscal mismanagement…employee fraud…
diversity & equity issues…product defects…activist attacks…environmental events…
industrial accidents…management transitions…
community outrage…regulatory issues

It’s a simple fact: controversies today are tried in the Court of Public Opinion
more often than in the Court of Law.

As almost any general counsel of a large, publicly traded, consumer-oriented company will tell you, legal controversies today are tried in the Court of Public Opinion — at least as much as in any Court of Law.  Every organization, especially large, publicly-traded corporations, has much to gain (or lose) by the way a legal controversy is positioned in the media. Because the value of a company’s reputation is immeasurable — and perhaps its largest uninsured asset — a corporation loses when the brand image is tarnished, even if the corporation technically wins at trial.  Furthermore, since most legal controversies are settled prior to trial, the Court of Public Opinion has arguably become the most important battleground affecting not only good will and market share, but legal bargaining power and settlement negotiations. Managing this battleground, therefore, has become integral to many corporations’ legal strategies.

                                      Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics

“An attorney’s duties do not begin inside the courtroom door.”

                                     Gentile vs. State Bar of Nevada

News now breaks first on social media, with traditional media sweeping Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for leads. Whether your law firm, client or bar association is immersed in crisis or dealing with a hot-button issue, your news can easily “go viral” in moments.  Since it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a few seconds to destroy one, “managing the  message” is a necessary skill-set for attorneys, as well as CEOs, government leaders, executive directors, business and nonprofit executives.

Hennes Communications regularly works with and for outside and general counsel for corporations, government agencies, non-profits, schools, hospitals and educational institutions, helping them communicate their way through legal and reputational challenges ranging from criminal charges and claims of medical and professional malpractice to labor and employment issues, food and product liability issues, ownership and transition disputes that threaten the very existence of an organization. We are practiced in the art of working with attorneys and, in fact, are frequently brought in by attorneys who recognize the value we bring to the table. We often work with legal teams by immediately preparing for the Court of Public Opinion so their client is not declared “guilty” before they can even be heard in the Court of Law. In fact, we can sometimes help prevent a situation from spawning a lawsuit.

Our seminars, all previously-certified for Continuing Legal Education credits, include:

  • Crisis Management for Lawyers & Their Clients
    Our signature seminar can be done as a short, 45-minute to 1-hour seminar, appropriate for breakfast or practice group lunch meetings, or as a 2 to 4-hour seminar. Especially in today’s world of immediate information, when reporters won’t wait long for you to return that call before posting the story online and where virtually everyone is a “journalist” armed with a camera and able to reach thousands of people with one simple Facebook message, attorneys and their clients simply cannot wait until a legal decision is rendered.  They must be prepared to vigorously defend their situation in a wide variety of venues, as well as media outlets.  Hennes Communications often works with legal teams by immediately preparing for the Court of Public Opinion so they, the organization they serve and their client are not declared “guilty” before they can even be heard in the Court of Law — and sometimes, we can help forestall a situation from even spawning a court case at all. This seminar includes:  establishing & maintaining “control of the message”; when a reporter calls – making your points and not just answering questions; reporter’s agenda vs. the attorney’s agenda; dealing with the press proactively and reactively.  We frequently present this seminar, in varying lengths, for bar associations and at law firms for the benefit of a firm’s attorneys, corporate counsel and clients. A number of firms have used these seminars as an effective marketing tool to reinforce existing business relationships and prospect for new business.

For a downloadable brochure with more details about Crisis Management for Attorneys & Their Clients, click here.

Our newest seminars aimed at legal audiences and their clients include:

  • Winning on Social Media: Crisis Management in an Echo Chamber
    Law firms, lawyers, companies and business leaders spend years building a sterling reputation that social media trolls can tear apart in seconds. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and more – have become a primary information source and a dominant driver of reputation for individuals and organizations. Experience has shown that the faster and more forthright an organization is when it responds to thorny, emerging issues on social media, the more likely it is to contain or neutralize what might otherwise become an extended and damaging attack on its reputation and brand. This one-hour seminar places heavy emphasis on pragmatic, practical tools you can use to help your clients or your law firm succeed on social media.

Learning Objectives

    1. How the fundamental rules of effective crisis communications apply to social media.
    2. How to leverage your social media accounts and make them work for you in reaching key stakeholders – the people who care most about you and your organization.
    3. How to evaluate social media threats and how that assessment informs your response.
  • Social Media and the Courts: A New Frontier
    Three have been more “trials of the century” than we have had centuries. This seminar explores why trials have been big news for decades, but also how profoundly coverage of those trials has changed with the digital revolution in communications – and what lawyers need to know about it. Topics will include: a brief history of high-profile media coverage of trials – and the sudden, recent change in how the coverage works; how and why social media are now crucial for journalists and why you must understand “iterative reporting”; social media’s impact on jurors and court rulings; the scarcity of research on how social media and digital journalism impact witnesses and trials overall; pros and cons of social media and digital journalism in trial coverage.

Learning Objectives

    1. Lessons from jury misconduct on social media that led to mistrials and reversals.
    2. Understanding iterative journalism and what it means to attorneys and firms in the media spotlight.
    3. Do’s, don’ts and best practices for effective use of social media by attorneys.
  • Getting to the Truth: How to Detect Fake News
    Fake news is not new news. Masters of the art include Benjamin Franklin. But in the digital media era, when information – true and false – travels in seconds, fake news has become a prevalent challenge in society. This seminar delves into the history of fake news, explores how we are living through a second coming of Yellow Journalism and provides practical tips for how to recognize fake news – and avoid spreading it.

Learning Objectives

    1. Lessons from history may show how to overcome the latest fake news era.
    2. Understanding confirmation bias and why it is the gasoline thrown on the fake news fire.
    3. Practical tips for recognizing fake news and how to be a better – and better-informed – news consumer.
  • Crisis Communications and Social Media for Attorneys & Public Officials
    For elected and public officials, social media represents special challenges – and special opportunities. Accessibility, information-sharing and gauging public interest are easier and more convenient than ever before. As are the opportunities to criticize, organize opposition and spread misinformation. And when a crisis hits, it will play out on social media. This seminar will help participants understand the influence of social media – and how it’s only going to grow. How public officials can use social media to the benefit of their organizations and constituents. And you’ll explore how to apply the best practices of effective crisis management on social media in a public setting.

Learning Objectives

    1. How public records and sunshine laws work on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
    2. The critical step of distinguishing personal accounts from campaign and official government accounts.
    3. How to use social media to help achieve public policy goals.
  • Journalism, Social Media & the Courts: A New Frontier (How Digital Journalism and Social Media are Changing Court Coverage)
    This is a 1-hour seminar speaking to the fact that journalists have had a long love affair with reporting on lawyers, the courts and high-profile trials. That coverage looked the same for decades. Then, suddenly, just a few years ago, everything changed. Now, trials are covered live on Twitter. Lawyers’ opening and closing arguments are dissected in real time. And social media itself, with its recent dramatic impact on jurors and court rulings, is finding itself on trial. This seminar discusses how coverage of the legal system – in conventional media and on social media – has changed in the digital age, and what lawyers need to know about it.  Other topics include a brief history of high-profile media coverage of trials – and the sudden, recent change in how the coverage works; how and why social media are now crucial for journalists and why you must understand “iterative reporting”; social media’s impact on jurors and court rulings; the scarcity of research on how social media and digital journalism impact witnesses and trials overall; pros and cons of social media and digital journalism in trial coverage.

For more information, please call us at 216-321-7774 and ask to speak to Bruce Hennes or Thom Fladung.  For a short video of Bruce speaking, click here.

Hennes Communications has presented legal-oriented seminars for the following law firms, bar associations and organizations:

Associations & Organizations

  • Akron Bar Association
  • Akron Canton Barristers
  • Alabama League of Municipalities
  • Alabama State Bar Association
  • Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • American Public Power Association Regulatory & Legal Conference
  • American Society of Matrimonial Lawyers
  • Arizona School Attorneys Association
  • Arizona State Bar Association
  • Association of Corporate Counsel – Mid-Ohio Chapter
  • Association of Corporate Counsel – N.E. Ohio Chapter
  • Association of Corporate Counsel – N.W. Ohio Chapter
  • Association of Legal Administrators
  • Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale) Bar Association
  • California Bar Leadership Conference
  • California State Bar Association
  • Case Western Reserve University Law School
  • Cincinnati Bar Association
  • Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Cleveland State University Law School
  • Colorado State Bar Association
  • Columbus Bar Association
  • Council of School Attorneys
  • Cuyahoga County Bar Association
  • Cuyahoga County Employment Lawyers Association
  • Cuyahoga County Law Directors Association
  • Dallas Bar Association
  • Dayton Bar Association
  • Defense Research Institute (DRI)
  • Denver Bar Association
  • Federal Bar Association, Cleveland Chapter
  • Greater Cleveland General Counsel Association
  • Houston Bar Association
  • Idaho Municipal Attorneys Association
  • International Municipal Lawyers Association
  • International Union of Marine Insurance
  • Kentucky State Bar Association
  • Lake County Bar Association
  • Legal Marketing Association (Cleveland, Dallas, Denver & N.  Orleans)
  • Lorain County Bar Association
  • Louisiana State Bar Association
  • Marine & Energy Symposium of the Americas
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States
  • Maui (Hawaii) Municipal Attorneys Association
  • Mecklenburg County Bar Association (Charlotte, NC)
  • Medina County Bar Association
  • National Association of Bar Executives
  • National Conference of Bar Presidents
  • National School Boards Association
  • Nevada State Bar Association
  • New York City Bar Association Corp Counsel Symposium
  • New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Ohio Attorney General Conference for Public College & University Attorneys
  • Ohio Business Law Institute
  • Ohio Counsel of School Board Attorneys
  • Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association
  • Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association
  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • Queens County (NYC) Bar Association
  • Roundtable Collaborative, The (Managing Partners Roundtable)
  • San Diego County Bar Association
  • Society of Ohio Healthcare Attorneys
  • Stark County Bar Association
  • St. Paul, City of
  • Texas State Bar Association
  • Toledo Bar Association
  • Transportation Lawyers Association
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • U.S. Law Firm Group
  • University of Akron Law School
  • University of Toledo Law School
  • West Virginia State Bar Association


  • Baker & Hostetler LLP
  • Benesch, Friedlander
  • Brennan, Manna & Diamond
  • Bricker & Eckler
  • Brouse, McDowell
  • Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs
  • Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP
  • Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP
  • Eastman & Smith LLC
  • Ennis Britton
  • Frantz Ward LLP
  • Giffen & Kaminski LLC
  • Goldman & Rosen
  • Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP
  • Ice Miller
  • Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue
  • Jones, Walker
  • Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz
  • Leech Tishman
  • McDonald Hopkins
  • Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis
  • Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper
  • Ohio Joint Insurance Fraud Conference
  • Porter Wright
  • Reminger LPA
  • Squire Patton Boggs
  • Stark & Knoll
  • Taft Stettinius
  • Thomas Miller (Americas)
  • Thompson Hine LLP
  • Ulmer & Berne LLP
  • Walter & Haverfield LLP
  • Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors
  • Weltman, Weinberg
  • Weston, Hurd
  • Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP
  • Wicken Herzer Panza

Hennes Communications has also worked with many top law firms – and their clients – in the U.S. You can find a partial list here.

Contact us today and speak to one of our specialists.

Article:  How Lawyers & Crisis Communicators Can Work Together